The Seven Degrees of Mithraism

Mosaics from the Mithraeum of Felicissimus in Ostia.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the sacraments as follows: "The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation or Chrismation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony."

These correspond to the seven degrees of Mithraism. For each of these degrees, a sacramental communion must be taken to induce visions. Mithra himself was a vegetation god, presumably seen in the visions, who acted as a mediator to help mortals reach empyrean. He was the savior equivalent to the Roman Sol Invictus and, some say, the model for Jesus Christ and rites of Roman Catholicism.

The Mithraic degrees:

Grade 1: Corax, Corux or Corvex (raven or crow) Symbols: Beaker, Caduceus (Snake on Staff). Associated planet/Protecting deity: Mercury

Grade 2 : Nymphus, Nymphobus (male bride) Symbols: lamp, bell, veil, circlet/crown (diadem). Associated planet/Protecting deity: Venus

Grade 3: Miles (soldier) Symbols: pouch, helmet, lance, drum, belt, breast plate. Associated planet/Protecting deity: Mars

Grade 4 : Leo (lion) Symbols: batillum, sistrum, laurel wreath, thunderbolts (Vajra). Associated planet/Protecting deity: Jupiter

Grade 5 : Perses (Persian) Symbols: akinakes Phyrgian cap, sickle, sickle moon and stars, sling pouch Associated planet/Protecting deity: Luna

Grade 6 : Heliodromus (sun-runner) Symbols: torch, images of Helios the Sun, whip, robes. Associated planet/Protecting deity: Sol

Grade 7: Pater (father) Symbols: patera Mitre, crozier/shepherd's staff, garnet or ruby ring, chasuble, elaborate robes jewel encrusted with metallic threads. Associated planet/Protecting deity: Saturn

Notice that the Caduceus of Mercury (Greek Hermes, the Winged Messenger) is the first Mithraic degree while Baptism is the first Catholic sacrament. Given the original euphemism of Baptism as the ingestion of psychoactive "holy waters," we find equivalence with Mithraic communion.

In the other degrees we see many of the symbols already discussed in earlier posts. Venus is crowned Queen of Heaven, Mars identified as the war god (Shiva/Tara the Destroyer), Jupiter wielding the thunderbolt "vajra" of entheogenic courage and enlightenment, Luna's Phrygian "liberty" cap symbolizing the magic mushroom (and Islamic crescent & star), Sol representing the "glory" and holding torch of liberty (i.e., Venus) and Saturn the Holy Father wearing the gold threaded and jewel encrusted robes like the Hebrew High Priest. The "patera" at bottom left is the chalice of libation or communion bowl. The Catholic Church uses many of these symbols.

As the seven Mithraic degrees were Christianized into the Roman Catholic Church, the entheogenic haoma (Soma) used in the Mithraeum was replaced by ordinary wine. Once intended as the seven doors to enlightenment, the Seven Degrees were reduced to symbolic ritual. From this decidedly non-spiritual foundation was thus born the whole of Western civilization.